Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pennies for Peace

This week we spent a lot of time exploring and discovering money! Usually I introduce money to the class in a very predictable, organized and methodical fashion. It has always worked and the children left being able to recognize and identify all of the coins. Well this year I had Mr. Alfie Kohn whispering in my ear to let go of my control and see what happened. I was nervous and worried about teaching "without a plan" but my curiosity got the best of me. In the next few paragraphs I will do my best to share with all of you what happened as I tried to "teach" the class about coins, without a plan.
One of my students from last year, Elle, was inspired after we read Greg Mortenson's Into The Wind in class and raised some money for his Pennies for Peace organization. Over the break she ran her own lemonade stand and proudly brought in all of her change with a note asking me to count her money and send it to Greg and the children in Pakistan.
On Wednesday I talked with the class about what Elle had done and presented the bucket of change to the class with the question of "How can we count her change?" I was met with blank stares, and had to think quickly! This was not what I was expecting to happen! I then dumped out all of the change onto the rug and asked the class if any of them knew anything about any of the coins. S.Y was the first to speak up when she said "I know that four of these (pointing to a quarter) make a dollar." No one disagreed with her, so then I asked the class how we could figure out which were the big ones, and which weren't. After giving them each a quarter to look at and discuss with their buddy they decided that their coin (still not named a quarter yet) could be used as the compare coin and that they would put all of the big coins into the bucket, while leaving the non-big coins on the rug. As the children were sorting the coins S.P. was showing her friends how she would hold her coin up against the other coins and if it was a match she would put it in the bucket. M.B. was showing her friends how she would stack all of the coins between her fingers to see if they were the right size. One child accidentally tossed his compare coin into the bucket and began adding nickles to the pot. A few children looked at me to do something and told him that the coins he was adding were NOT the right ones, but I let it continue until all of the quarters (and a few nickles) were in the bucket. When the sorting was completed I held up the bucket of coins and asked the class if they thought it was filled with only quarters "Nooooo!" they quickly responded. So we dumped out the bucket and the children shared their sorting techniques and we sorted once again.
After the quarters were sorted the children discussed how they would count the coins. A.K. suggested that we make stacks of 4 and then count up all of the stacks, the class agreed so that is exactly what we did. At the end P.R., M.B. and K.F all had 3 quarters and weren't sure what to do. Another discussion began and M.B decided to give P.R and K.F each a quarter and she was left with one. Then all we had to do was count the stacks (21) and the extra coin. At this point P.R. said "There is one quarter left, so it we have $21.25." My response was something like "Did anyone hear P.R?" Finally we were able to name the coin (a quarter) and give it an amount (25 cents).

We then repeated a similar procedure when someone (my mind is failing me at the moment, but I am sure your children will know) said that they knew there are 100 pennies in one dollar. We then sorted and had to figure out a way to count them. We tried counting them one-by-one but that quickly failed, A.K. suggested making stacks of pennies, but the class couldn't agree on how many coins would be in each stack. Finally E.L suggested that we use "The chart with 100 boxes on it." So out came the 100s chart. R.L. suggested that if we put one penny in each square (starting with the 1s box) then we wouldn't even need to count! So that is exactly what we did. 98 pennies later we had the chart almost filled. The class really wanted to reach 100 so I scrounged around in my desk and found 2 copper pennies and we had $1.00.

The third counting session was very similar, to the first and second session and the children were getting the hang of working together to share ideas. When we got to the nickles, no one knew how much they were worth. V.V. suggested that if I read the words on the coin, maybe it would tell us. Thankfully it did and we learned that a nickle was worth 5 cents. P.R. quickly did the math in his head and shared with the class that 20 nickles made $1.00! The class really wanted to use the 100s chart again so we filled up the chart to 20, put those coins in a pile and repeated the process until all of the coins were used ($1.90).
Our final counting session was with dimes. The class wanted it to be "fair" so that everyone started with the same amount of coins to count. After much discussion they asked that I pass out the coins one by one until they were gone, then take away the coins that made their friends have more (their words, not mine). Each child ended up with 5 coins (perfect!) and I had 7. More discussions were had regarding how to make stacks of 10 until finally they all agreed to share their coins with their buddy to make a 10 (someone said 5 and 5 make 10). Needless to say, we had $7.20 in dimes.
The entire coin counting session took up four Math Job times and was very slow moving. At the end I was able to ask the class about any of the coins and they were all able to tell me at least 1-2 things about each coin. I was, and still am, very impressed by how the children respectfully taught one another, and were comfortable in asking questions sharing their thoughts and working together. It was a huge learning experience for me and the class.
Here are a few photo's of some of the other ways we learned about our coins.

Counting how many drops of water will fit on each coin

Rolling the coins through play dough to discover the texture of the edges

Recording their discoveries

Rubbing their coins to make an imprint

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